Shelly Rahme started Northern Harvest seven years ago – a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program to provide local farmers with consistent, predictable income, and bring fresh, local produce into Temiskaming homes. Now, with a $25,000 grant from the Greenbelt Fund, Shelly is launching a new product and food hub aimed at making local food more accessible to the community.
The Good Food Box is a once-monthly supply of about a week’s worth of groceries. At $15 for a small box or $20 for a large box, the Good Food Box is a more affordable option for families who may not have much disposable income. The philosophy behind the Good Food Box is simple – “we can make local food very affordable,” says Shelly.
The Box is designed to improve food skills and includes a staple product, like whole-grain pasta or bagels, along with produce to help families put together a full meal. Recipes for tomato zucchini pasta or fresh vegetable spreads help folks make the most of the ingredients in their box.
“There’s no point providing food items people can’t use or recipes with ingredients they may not be able to afford,” says Shelly. This approach helps reach more customers and encourages people who want to incorporate more fresh produce and local food into their diets, but feel intimidated by elaborate recipes and aren’t sure where to start.
Living and farming in northeastern Ontario, Shelly is mindful of the unique challenges that make local agricultural more difficult to sustain than in more southern communities. The shorter growing season means local produce isn’t available until the end of June, and frost becomes a problem after 15-16 weeks.
“That’s the nut that the food hub is helping us to crack. We can grow more storage vegetables to stretch the local food season a few more months,” explains Shelly. The next step is making value-added products and maintaining income year-round for her farm and the four farms she partners with.
Why local? “It’s the way that I like to eat. I want to be connected to my food,” says Shelly, who raises grass-fed beef on her farm. Based on the success of the Northern Harvest CSA and now, the Good Food Box, Shelly’s passion for local is spreading across Temiskaming.
To learn more, visit www.northernharvest.info.